Progress seen in coronavirus relief talks — but still ‘a lot of work to do’

A $600-per-week federal unemployment benefit expired on Friday, as did an eviction moratorium. The end of those two federal protections could hurt some of the millions of Americans who’ve lost their jobs since the coronavirus pandemic hit the country five months ago. More than 153,000 Americans have died from the disease, and the U.S. economy shrank by more than 9% as businesses shut down.

President Donald Trump and Senate Republicans are supporting a $1 trillion package that would restore the federal unemployment levels, but at far lower levels. The GOP plan would also spend tens of billions more to reopen schools, expand state coronavirus testing capabilities, aid farmers, and support global health programs. Republicans — led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — are also demanding liability protection from lawsuits for schools and businesses as they begin to reopen.

Pelosi and Schumer, however, are backing a far more costly $3 trillion House-passed proposal that would extend the $600 weekly federal unemployment benefit until next year. And Democrats want more than $900 billion in federal aid for state and local governments, as well as far more financial support for schools and universities.

As the talks bogged down this week, Meadows and Mnuchin made several offers for a short-term continuation of the $600-per-week unemployment payment in combination with some other provisions.

But the Democrats rejected that White House-led effort, saying they want to come to an agreement on a larger package, not a “piecemeal approach” to the problem.

“So today was productive in terms of moving us forward,” Pelosi said. “But it is again, we have to get rid of this virus so that we can open our economy, safely open our schools and to do so in a way that does not get cuts in benefits to America’s workers.”

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